Authors note: This is a work of fiction. It does not reflect any actual events, and all of the characters are fictional. Any similarity to events or persons living or dead is purely coincidental.There is a real city of Oceanside, California. It’s San Diego County’s third largest city with a below-average crime rate.
The Grand Pacific Hotel is fictional, but during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were at least two similar resort hotels that did exist, primarily serving railroad passengers and tourists as described in this book.
— Tom Morrow
Two days later, Beatrice Cryer, Aaron Hinkle, and Seth Adams were all rounded up and taken to the Oceanside Police Department where they were put into a small conference room now set up as an interrogation room. Under the law, they couldn’t be forced to come to the police station, but Joe and Danny strongly suggested they should.
“We invited John Traiger to join us today, but his health has deteriorated. We wish him well. I’m sure you all know who he is.” Danny looked sternly at the group while he was saying this. The three looked at each other and meekly nodded. Beatrice did ask how he was doing.
“He’s under doctor’s orders to stay in bed. The doctor believes Mr. Traiger is suffering from a lot of stress. I think I know why. Do you know why?” Danny asked Beatrice, but it was meant for everybody. They remained mute.
“As you already know, and I know you know this, two bodies have been discovered at the Grand Pacific Hotel while it was being demolished. One was a Marine wrapped like a mummy; and one was a set of bones found in the old hotel privy pit. We have determined exactly when these bodies were placed in their respective positions.
“We have determined the identity of the Marine. We have not determined the identity of the skeleton other than to say we know it was a woman. Do any of you know her identity?” The three looked at each other and remained mute.
“Okay then. I’ll move on. What you don’t know, nor does the rest of the world know, is we found another set of human bones at the hotel, stuffed inside the old boiler furnace. We have determined it was a Marine. We have identified him, and we know when he was put in the boiler. Does anyone care to enlighten us as to how he got there?” Again the three of them looked at each other and remained mute. Danny looked at Joe who remained stone-faced.
“No one knows?” Danny asked in a mockingly tone. Everybody shook their heads side-to-side. Danny did notice Aaron Hinkle stare at the floor with a blank look on his face; his eyes glazed over.
“Would it do any good if I told you we found a fourth body?” The moment after Danny said this, Aaron and Seth looked at each other and then at Beatrice. Beatrice wiped a tear from her eye.
“Beatrice? You want to say something?” She wiped another tear. Danny asked her again but in a more moderate tone.
“Do you know who it was, Beatrice?” Beatrice looked up at Danny now with tears in her both of her eyes.
“Do you want to tell me or do you want me to tell you,” asked Danny.
“It … it was my father,” she said in a broken voice.
“James Custer Armstrong. That was your father?”
“Yes … yes, that was him,” she said looking down with tears streaming from her face. Joe reached over and handed her some tissue. There was a moment of silence. Danny had to regroup and show some sort of compassion without losing the interview.
“He was mean, wasn’t he?”
“Yes … yes, he was very mean to Momma. He beat her all the time. I … I was only five years old at the time, but I … I remember how mean he was. He would never let up, especially when he was drinking.”
“Did he ever beat you?”
“Yes … yes he did. And he beat my brother, too.”
“Your brother Jimmy?”
“Yes. He beat him a lot. Jimmy had mental problems, and our dad beat him all the time. He said he was trying to beat some sense into him. But Jimmy’s problems came from birth. It wasn’t his fault. God made him that way for a special reason. I loved my brother.”
“Beatrice, did you kill your father?” Beatrice looked Danny squarely in the eyes; tears still rolled from her cheeks. She answered meekly but firmly.
“No, I did not.”
“Your mother? Did she kill him?”
“No, she did not.”
“Jimmy?” Beatrice put her hands into her wet face.
“Yes, yes he killed my father.”
“But he wasn’t Jimmy’s father, was he?”
“No, no he wasn’t.”
“How did he kill your father?” Beatrice took several deep breaths and a sip of water. She regrouped.